Saturday, October 26, 2019

Cavities, Fillings, Root Canals - Oh my!

I have often joked recently that my biggest regret in life so far is not flossing my teeth. Or at least not brushing at night so many times in my 20's. When you consider my sugar intake (back when my metabolism was still a beast), it's no surprise that I had my fair share of dental work to take care of the last two years.

A cavity is technically any hollow place. It seems pretty obvious that a cavity in my tooth would quickly be filled with whatever food and drink I put in my mouth. Imagine letting that stuff sit for a whole day, and it's no wonder that what the future would hold would not be fun or lovely.

After many years, those cavities did more than just get filled with things that aren't good for my teeth; they began to affect the strength of my teeth, and then the nerves far deep inside. In case you have never had this problem before, this basically means I was in a lot of pain. Regular daily activities like biting and chewing became a risky dance of trying to avoid jarring pain.

When you have several teeth that are this far gone, your only options are having a root canal (which is not actually be the best long-term solution) or having the tooth extracted. So fun! As of now, I still have all my teeth, but I have had three root canals in the past 18 months and 2 of them are still giving me grief. Filling my teeth back up with something that seems strong but is not the same as my original tooth, as God made it, will never make my teeth what they ought to be.

Through all of this, I am coming to see that our hearts are a lot more like teeth than most of us care to consider.

In my opinion, C. S. Lewis says it best...

"If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable solution is that I was made for another world."

It seems like every human being is born with this empty space inside that we are always trying to fill. Just like our stomachs, we stand looking at a world full of delightful things and can't find a single thing that will satisfy our craving. How many songs can you name right away that express this same idea? Is it too simple to assume, like Lewis and Plum, that this hole is really God-shaped?

I don't think so at all. I think that's why the 1st Commandment is the very 1st Commandment.

"You shall have no other gods before me." Exodus 20:3

When we fill our heart-cavities with things other than what is meant to be in there, our hearts begin to feel the effects. They begin to decay, to smell bad, to grow in frailty, and to feel painful when touched in even the most tender way. A strong tap can send us to the floor in misery.

When we fill our heart-cavities with success according to the world's view, we grow weary of the constant need to be amazing all the time and start to slide down into unmotivated despair.

When we fill our heart-cavities with the hope of being valuable because of everything we give, we get tired of feeling used and eventually begin to feel useless.

When we fill our heart-cavities with all the exciting things this world has to offer, we begin to see how fruitless and temporary they are and wonder what the point really is.

Are you catching my drift? Our heart-cavities cannot be filled with anything this world has to offer.

"And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." 1 John 2:17

Filling ourselves with God's purposes and God's plans is the only thing that won't rot our hearts.

I don't think most of us do these things intentionally, just like I didn't intentionally put sugar into my cavities. I put it in my mouth, and naturally it ended up in-between my teeth and inside my cavities. Our hearts are hungry and we feed them unintentionally every day, by what we look at, who we listen to, and what we participate in. We are stuffing our hearts and not seeing the damage for many years to come. At that point, the pain of taking out all of the gunk can be unbearable. Still, it is more bearable than letting ours hearts continue to rot and fall apart.

Thankfully, our hearts are stronger than teeth, and they regrow better!

God's truth inside our hearts can regrow all the weak places, all the open cracks, and turn off the pain-points that are wreaking havoc on our souls. It's not so much a work you do start to finish, but a work you have to be willing to allow. You'll have to start taking out the harmful things you've been putting in. Whether it's the world's idea of success, other people's need of you, or all of the fun this world has to offer, you have to stop assuming that those things are going to bring you the rest you desire.

You don't have to stop enjoying the world, God made it for us! But you have to stop giving those things the position of authority over your heart. Stop longing for them and attaching them to renewal and refreshment. Stop expecting them to make you feel like the wonderful person God already knows you are. Don't let them dictate how you feel about your life, how much hope you have, or how happy you could be.

Your cavities are not your fault, but they will all need filled. Fill them with God's perspective on your life and the restoration of your heart will follow. Fill them with God's word, His promises, His love and commitment to you.

Need a starting point? Take a look at Psalm 119. Yes, it's notoriously long, and not really instructive in nature, but it was oddly refreshing to me this morning. There is a lot of talk about meditating on the law and loving God's law, which might seem weird or cold to you, but God knows what He is doing. He knows what we need in our hearts more than we do.

"This is my comfort in my affliction, that your promise gives me life." Psalm 119:50

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